Dealing with Disrespect in the Workplace

meeting of people dealing with disrespect

You consider yourself a team player at work. You show up, work hard, and you try to be courteous to your coworkers. True that all of this is dependent on having had your coffee, but still–you always manage to put on a happy face. But some people are just determined to rain on your caffeine-induced parade. Whether it’s a colleague, a supervisor, or a customer, you’ve probably dealt with disrespect in one form or another.

While you might not want to resort to clandestine revenge efforts like hiding an Annoy-a-tron in their office or slipping a dose of chili powder in their afternoon latte, you are definitely within your professional bounds to confront them or to go to your supervisor with the issue. Here are some of the most common examples of disrespect in the workplace and how to handle them.

Mildly Inconsiderate

In many cases of casual disrespect, it doesn’t even dawn on you until after it’s happened. Maybe it needs to happen several times before you begin to notice a pattern of feeling like a doormat. They may use passive-aggressive language, indirectly address issues through email or notes, rattle on about personal matters when you are legitimately trying to get work done, or simply not give you the level of consideration that you give to them.

More often that not, these folks don’t even realize what they are doing and can benefit from being called out on being rude or inconsiderate. Just talk to them about it. Be assertive without being insulting about how their actions come off to you. Don’t confront them in front of other people, take them aside and talk to them one on one.

The Dump and Run

Then there’s the co-worker who knows they’re being a jerk and clears out as soon as they hit you with something unexpected. Chances are that they procrastinated with their own work and decided to put the onus on you. Maybe they’ll dump a pile of work in your lap at 10 to 5 on a Friday, noting that the work is on a deadline has to get mailed out that day. That forces you to stay late or take the blame for dropping the ball. Maybe they like to call out sick at the last minute. Then you to have to pull a double or neglect your own work in order to pick up the slack in their absence. This co-worker tends to shirk their responsibilities and doesn’t care how it affects everyone else. They probably do the bare minimum. When they do actually do any work, it’s a shoddy job.

It might not be your place to take care of this kind of chronic and all-encompassing disrespect, but you can at least tell the person when their inability to fulfill their job responsibilities is affecting you directly. If they don’t listen or don’t care, talk to your supervisor to make sure they are aware of what’s going on and that it is personally affecting you. From there, it’s up to them to get the problem individual to shape up or get packing.

Blatant Harassment or Abuse

You don’t need anyone else to point this one out to you in order to know how wrong it is, but you may need some outside help in figuring out how to address it. If a co-worker is taking disrespect to the extreme and intimidating you or harassing you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, it’s best to get some help, especially if they won’t listen to requests from you to stop. If it’s your supervisor that’s the problem and there’s no higher-up to whom you can report them, it’s time to look for employment elsewhere. Get all of your professional ducks in a row and make your exit as quietly and tactfully as possible.

Dealing with Disrespect

Positive professional relationships with co-workers require maturity, consideration, and mutual respect. Any time that falls out of balance, the workplace suffers for it. If you are dealing with disrespect at any level, speak up. Most companies have written policies about workplace etiquette and harassment intolerance. If you feel someone is in violation of your rights to have a safe and positive work environment, say something, whether it’s directly to that person, or taking it to the next level and asking your supervisor to address it. Either way, you are absolutely within your professional bounds.